I’ve had a couple people (hey y’all!) ask me how I started running when I was out of shape and overweight. So much so, that I am going to write this out. Please note that I am not a doctor. People’s individual conditions (asthma, injuries, heart conditions, etc.) should be taken in to consideration before you start any program. I hate to say it, but I firmly believe that many people have bodies that are not meant to run because of these conditions. However, I’ve been proven wrong before. So what do I know… again, not a doctor.
First of all, you CANNOT run if you cannot walk. I am dead serious on this. You cant just go out there and run unless you are in great shape or completely healthy. I recommend building up slowly by walking 30 minutes a day for four to six days a week. When that becomes too comfortable, find some high tempo music and walk faster. Then add some hills. Treadmills are great ways to amp up your workout. Most modern brands have different types of workouts. Even now, when I’m too tired to run or it’s an off day, I’ll set it on a random hill workout and let the treadmill dictate my workout.
When you are able to walk 3 miles outside or on a 1-2% treadmill incline without stopping AND with it feeling like a medium level effort, then you are ready to run.
Running will not happen automatically for the majority of us. It will frustrate the hell out of you. You WILL want to give up. You will burn out. There will be plenty of bad days that can certainly outnumber the good ones. Avoid burnout by:
- Limiting how many days you run. DO NOT run every day. Your body is essentially building up new muscles. You need time to rest and recover. When I started, and even today, I only run 3-4 times a day.
- Start SLOOOOOOWWWWWW. Speed comes with time. I promise. My first run was a 14 minute mile. A year later, I can run 10:30s. If you insist on running at a certain pace for whatever reason, then give yourself:
- Time to get better. Just as speed will come, so will endurance. Your first run may only last 10 seconds (or less). Be proud of that. Write it down. Tell your super supportive and understanding friends. Send me an email! Try to run at that same level for a 2 or 3 more runs until you try to run for longer. Add on another 5 seconds and repeat. Celebrate, record it, run at that level a couple more times, and then add on. In a month, you may go from running 10 seconds at a time to running for 4 or 5 minutes.
- Sign up for a race. Be realistic. For most people starting at my level (which was obese and overweight), give yourself 3-4 months to train. Or, if you are ready to go, try interval running (which I will go in to) or walking a race. 5Ks are the best way to start. They are 3.1 miles long and are a great distance to play with.
And with that, comes my next recommendation. Typically, I would tell everyone to try Couch to 5K. It’s a pretty popular program that has gotten great results. I did it… twice. But here’s what they dont tell you: Couch to 5K doesn’t build you up to a 5K unless you can run a 10 minute mile. Instead, it builds you up to running 30 minutes straight. That’s great if that is your goal (and can be a great one)…
But what if you cant run 30 minute straight? What if your body needs that walk break? Are you still a runner? Can you still become one?
YES. Yes, you can. And dont let anyone ever tell you that you cant.
How do I run 10:30s? I do it with intervals. I run 3:1… in other words, I run for 3 minutes at a 9 min/mile pace and then I walk for 1 minute at a 17 min/mile pace. And then I repeat… over and over again.
I can run a straight mile. In fact, I can run a 5K straight. I’m pretty sure I could run 5, if I really wanted to. But I dont. Running intervals has kept me injury free, helped me avoid burn out, and has made me fall more in tune with my body. And it’s all thanks to this guy:
I bought this book about two weeks before my first 5K in March. A week before that same 5K, I tried it out. I ran a 5K at my normal pace (a 14 minute mile) and finished in 43 minutes. Respectable, but I pretty much wanted to die afterwards. Two days later, I tried to do the 5K with intervals (I started with :45/1:00… run for 45 seconds and then walk for a minute). My time on that run? 41:40. With the race a week away, I turned to Jeff Galloway’s many message boards on Spark and, with their support, ran the race with those same intervals. I did it in 40 minutes.
I was blown away! How could walking while running longer distances help so much? And even better… I was in no pain. I finished my race feeling like I could go another mile. And with a few exceptions, I’ve felt that way after every single one of my runs ever since. I’ve ran the Galloway method for over 8 months now and I will not be going back to straight running any time soon.
But ultimately, it comes down to what works for you. There are a MILLION plans out there that will get you going. Some will have you run almost every day. Others will have you running only once a week…. your level of commitment should be reflected in the plan you chose. And when you hit a milestone (say, run your first mile or minute), reward yourself. Make it a fun game.
And with that game, make sure you’ve got ample support. People who laugh at you, tell you that your slow, or try to squash your plan are not support. If you end up with no one, send me an email. I’m not joking. I’m here almost 24/7 to help you, rant with you, and jump with joy when you cross the finish line.
And, while I’m thinking about it, I’ve got one more major tips: BUY RUNNING SHOES. Dont just go to payless and pick out the prettiest pair of Nikes you can find or the cheapest pair in the store. Invest in your fitness. Get yourself to a running store and ask to be fitted. Running shoes fit differently than your regular shoes (I wear an 8 in regular shoes, but an 8.5 Wide since I need more room in my toe box and my feet and ankles tend to swell). They will watch you stand, walk, and run to determine your shoe support needs. Shoes can be expensive, but be honest with them. If you cannot afford $150 pair of shoes, then let them know at the start. They will give you options.
So, that’s it. Start slow, avoid burn out, and try different plans till you find the one that works for you. When you do poorly, let it go and move on. When you do great, celebrate.
I hope this helps!